Süleyman Ergüçlüs interview with the Italian Ambassador Mr. Gerardo La Francesca.
Ergüçlü: Ambassador of Italy to Cyprus Gerardo La Francesca, thanks for accepting our invitation.
La Francesca: Thank you for inviting me to be here.
Ergüçlü: Its a pleasure. Now that Italy has assumed the EU presidency, what kind of a role does Italy intend to play concerning the Cyprus problem?
La Francesca: Well, first of all I would like to say that the Cyprus problem is an important one for Italy. Italy has very good relations with all countries who play a role in the Cyprus problem. Italy is a Mediterranean country. So we feel geographically and even culturally close to Cyprus. We also have some historic link to this island. Be sure that Cyprus will be very much in the attention of the Italian government during this 6 months of presidency of EU. It should be possible. We will do our best in order to help, to facilitate a solution. A solution is, I said it several times, its in the interest of everybody. Its in the interest of Cypriots, in the interest of the EU, interest of Italy as a member state of EU. And especially for one reason. A solution of the Cyprus problem can bring quite a big number of positive developments. As I said other times, I would not focus the attention on problems, which might rise in the case of solution. I think, its more important to focus on advantages on all of us and I am very much aware of the positive developments which may come to me as an Italian citizen by the solution of the Cyprus problem.
Ergüçlü: What kind of a solution do you envisage for Cyprus problem?
La Francesca: This is a very difficult question. I do not think we may suggest any specific kind of solution to the Cyprus problem. The solution must be found by Cypriots. I think, its important to have respect for people who live in this island and for people who have a long history behind them and for people who must take care of their future. Its your future, future of Cypriots. We know that there is a proposal on the table and naturally, Italy supports this proposal as base for negotiations. We definitely hope that discussions might be restarted in a constructive atmosphere in order to find a positive solution to the problem.
Ergüçlü: Is there a timetable in your mind as to when the negotiations may resume, to find a solution to the Cyprus problem? There are talks about September...
La Francesca: Of course, sooner the better. September... If talks resume in September, we will be very happy for this. Timetable ... We had some dates which unfortunately have passed. We have other dates in the future in the next year. Let me express a wish. Let me wish that not too long time passes before a solution to the Cyprus problem is found.
Ergüçlü: We see that you are showing a special interest in bi-communal events and in encouraging people from the two sides to come together. You are taking steps to improve these bi-communal get togethers. Can you elaborate on this?
La Francesca: Yes, we took some initiatives which were very interesting. I am saying this not only as representative of my state of my government but as a person. It was extremely interesting to see how people, who did not have the possibility, opportunity to meeting and doing things together, finally did it. If we played a positive role, we are happy. And it was beautiful to see how they were co-operating in a positive way with excellent results. This does not have any concrete consequences on the political diplomatic filed. No doubt the fact that Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots met and were doing theatre work, discussing about health, medicine and environment does not solve the Cyprus problem. Our aim was definitely much more modest. We have been flying very low, very close to the people, at least we tried to. What was a reason of satisfaction for us was to see that these two components mixed together and they created a positive chemical reaction. For instance theatre. A theatre was organised in theatre workshop which lasted two weeks. An Italian director came, he met with the people and at the beginning there were some psychological things. They formed a team and in 15 days they performed something which is unique. This is not at all boring, it was interesting despite of the fact that many of them did not understand much of the meaning because, as you may know, they were speaking in their languages. So this was a very interesting experiment from theatre. It was the fist time which a work was formed using Cyprus languages together. Well, I can tell you that it was a good product, something that no doubt no body could do on his own. Only mixing it up. As I was saying we have been flying very low as much close to people, we did not want to involve any institution. We did this, because we thought it was important in order to achieve our goal concerning the human relations and which is far away from a possible solution of the political diplomatic problem. We have not done it as a political, diplomatic job. We have been trying to work with people.
Ergüçlü: I think you took very much pleasure out of these events. I am sure this sort of get togethers do not lead to political solutions but it helps to build confidence between the two communities in Cyprus. I want to turn to another subject which is very closely linked to the Cyprus problem and Cyprus. Turkeys relations with the EU.... What is Italys position towards Turkeys accession to the EU?
La Francesca: Well, I would say Italys position is very much clear. Italy has excellent and long lasting relations with Turkey. Our relations are deeply rooted in the past. By the way we are following with great interest the developments in Turkey. What is happening in Turkey is a sort of decision or attempt to walk in the not easy path towards EU. Why I am saying not easy path, because it is like this. If you want to accede to the EU, it is a tremendous job, enormous amount of home works. It is a huge task and in some cases it is not easy. EU sometimes, I can say from our experience, forces some member states to take some measures. In some cases, at least, we have to thank the EU for forcing us to do it, because without EU it would not have been possible, maybe because of internal political reasons. There are some measures which are not very easy to be taken, which might have political cost. I certainly understand. Everyone must do his own job. Politicians must be careful. Once you have constrains of EU its easy to take some measures. So we understand that Turkey has started a difficult and long path towards the EU. We are affected by this and we definitely hope that Turkey can proceed as quick as possible in this path and we wish to our Turkish friends all the best success in this. This is our national position. We have not only have national good intentions for Turkey but also personal. There are also personal good relations between our prime minister and prime minister of Turkey. All this makes Italy as a country very much sensitive to the issue of accession of Turkey to EU.
Ergüçlü: Two prime ministers seem to have a friendship. Prime Minster Berlusconi have described We are friends, because we are both crazy, we are both fighting the establishment in our countries. When do you expect Turkey to start accession talks?
La Francesca: I cannot say when this would happen. Let me express the wish that this will happen as soon as possible. Let me express a wish that Turkey will be able to perform this difficult task and this wish is not only due to the fact that we have direct bi-literal very good relations with Turkey. As a matter of fact, the enlargement process of EU must be completed and must be competed with the accession of Turkey to EU. EU is changing and thanks god its changing. Nowadays, everything must change and adapt to the new world. Because if I am thinking how the world was 30 years ago, I can see huge difference in political field, international relations, in everyday life. EU is growing, adapting herself to the new world and in order to do this it must complete the enlargement. The accession of Turkey to EU, it will create some problems. Of course there will be 70 million more people. But it will bring richness. It will bring in the EU, people who have the traditions, cultural heritage, long and important history, who had important relations with the part of the world, Middle East, Islamic Arab countries, which is important for us to establish good or improve our relations. So what Turkey may bring to EU is extremely important and what solution of the Cyprus problem may bring is extremely valuable. We are very much aware of that fact. This means that should there be any possibility for us to help, to facilitate the path of Turkey towards EU, we will do it. But mainly responsibility is on Turkey itself.
Ergüçlü: When do you expect Turkey to become to be a full member?
La Francesca: I should not give dates. Not because diplomats do not want make clear cut declarations. But I do not think it would be fair on my side to give dates. But it would not be very much serious to give dates because it is very much serious on my side. Accession of Turkey depends on difficult complicated transformation which has started. But the path is still long. How can I say how long it will be necessary? How can I make a judgement on time Turkey needs to progress? I think one important principle in international and personal relations is to respect. I want to give respect. Saying Turkey will do this and this on my side will be arrogant.
Ergüçlü: How would you relate the Cyprus problem with the Turkey and EU relations?
La Francesca: The Cyprus problem must be solved because first of all this is in the interest of Cypriots. I am sure that a solution will no doubt create a big positive energy on economics, political, social and cultural fields which will be by far much more important than the difficulties will be faced. And of course, the solution of Cyprus problem will hopefully bring some positive contribution in relations between Turkey and Europe...
Ergüçlü: So in general what you are saying is, if the Cyprus problem is solved, it will help everybody who is related with the issue...
La Francesca: I am convinced. I have been convinced from the very fist time when I stepped on this island that a solution would be a win -win solution for everybody. Of course there is a cost to be paid. Of course I understand Cypriot people from both side may have some hesitation and some fears. If I try to put myself on your side, I understand a solution, in the same time, is something positive, but it may also scare a little bit. Because its a sort of jump in the vacuum, but I am rather convinced, this is a personal, feeling that positive consequences are much more than the difficulties or problems.
Ergüçlü: Ambassador of Italy to Cyprus Gerardo La Francesca, thank you very much for being with us.
La Francesca: Thank you